Transforming Structures for Balanced : Defence Capability Development
The Indian Government is responsible for making decisions on how billions of taxpayers’ money is spent in acquiring the capabilities needed to defend the nation and its interests now and in the future. To aid the government in making these decisions, it is critical that defence forces provide robust, considered and timely advice followed through a transparent and accountable execution process. This decision-making process must support the strategic imperative to deliver capability on time and on budget, as delays in the Capability Development process invariably incur strategic, financial and workload costs which are detrimental to defence’s ability to meet its objectives. To meet this imperative and to ensure a consistent chain of accountability and decision making, an improved definition of the Capability Development process and resultant evolutionary changes through competent guidance is the need.
What is capability? In the Military context, capability is the capacity or ability to achieve an operational effect. An operational effect may be defined in terms of the nature of the effect and of how, when, where and for how long it is produced. Military capability is central to the defence of a nation against direct armed attack and to protect our national interests against any internal calamity. Land, Air and Maritime capabilities must provide India the capacity to meet its strategic interests through the ability to act independently and make tailored military contributions in all spectrums. For this, it has to maintain a regional strategic military capability advantage to deter conflict, prevail in conflict if deterrence fails with minimum casualties and materiel losses.
Achieving a capability requires more than just inducting new equipment. Capability is provided by the combined effect of multiple fundamental inputs comprising the following:
• Personnel. Inputs to capability include consideration of recruiting, conducting individual training and developing appropriate core skills to meet defence needs. In developing capability proposals, capability development authority must clearly define competencies and skill sets and independently evaluate the same.
• Organisation. Is the keystone structure for defence which defines appropriate war establishment which includes personnel establishment, structures, balance of competencies and appropriate command and control.
• Command and Management. It includes the responsibilities, command and control mechanisms, doctrine, processes and procedures; underpins defence’s operating and management environments through enhanced command and decision-making processes. This is critical for risk assessment and subsequent risk management.
• Major systems. Include platforms, equipment and operating systems designed to enhance armed forces’ ability to engage military threats. Major systems, in service or in pipeline or on design board are the core components of capability and require detailed reporting and management.
• Infrastructure. To include buildings, structures, plant, equipment, civil engineering works, logistic nodes and associated life cycle maintenance workshops, hospitals, and utilities at appropriate locations are mandatory to capability development. In addition within readiness notice, stocks especially ammunition and spares must be available as required by the operational preparedness requirement. The level of holding of reserve stocks where provisioning lead times are beyond the readiness notice have to reviewed by the capability development body in sync with the strategic guidance.
• Collective Training. It includes training at combined, joint, single- service and unit levels. To optimise performance, organisational elements must undertake a comprehensive and ongoing collective training routine validated against the preparedness requirements for operations, derived from government guidance.
• Training areas. Must be available for military manoeuvres or simulated wartime operations involving planning, preparation and execution. Training areas may contain a variety of ranges for live-firing weapons practices, tests or operations. Training areas should also contain facilities and infrastructure that support training.
To ensure fully developed capabilities, the responsibilities for capability development of each service to include overlapping integrated capabilities should be defined in a joint directive which should be issued by the Defence Secretary, who as per the current rules of business is responsible for the defence of the Union of India. The Services Chiefs who are designated as Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Air Staff and Chief of Naval Staff should primarily focus as Capability Development Managers. The PSOs in the respective services would form the capability development group as hither to fore with upgrades afforded through ICT. The Theatre Commanders should be fully empowered and accountable for all operational responsibilities in their respective theatres. With the respective chiefs focused on timely build up of all fundamental inputs to capability, the empowered theatre commanders will deliver more effectively. For an incident in Kashmir, the COAS should not be rushing to Srinagar. He should review which fundamental inputs to capability was lacking and thereafter plan plugging the capability gap. The PM/RM should communicate to the theatre commander to get a full operational picture and seek recommendations. Before the Defence Parliamentary Committee, on matter of capabilities, the chiefs should answer, and on operational status it is the theatre commanders. The straggling capability development programs in the services are primarily because the chiefs assume the role of C in C for more than 80% of their time and spend 20% time on fundamental inputs to capability development. This further gets compounded in 1.2 mm large IA, wherein most of the Army Chief shave had under 20% of their entire tenures in AHQ as against other Service Chiefs who have over 60%earlier tenures in their respective Service HQs. The last IA transformation study made series of recommendations to reshape AHQ for better capability development. Execution has been incremental.
For integrated capability development, the IDS with a CDS/ permanent COSC would ensure the strategic guidance is correctly prioritised and the budget is utilized prudently. A Strategic Policy Division headed by CDS/ permanent COSC with a Special/Additional Secretary from the Office of the Defence Secretary, an Additional Secretary from the office of the Department of Defence Production, Additional Secretary from Ministry of Defence Finance and CC DRDO (SI and PC) should be made responsible and accountable for the overarching strategic guidance, Defence Planning and Acquisition Guidelines, and supporting plans to inform defence decision towards the development of defence capability. The strategy framework should be drawn from the Defence White Paper which would be issued by the Defence Minister duly approved by the Cabinet. The Strategic Planning Division will identify the broad tasks that Defence will be expected to perform in the near, mid and far term, together with their associated priorities and related policy development activities. Thereafter, the respective Services Capability Groups under the Capability Development Chiefs will identify the needs, prioritise the requirements, go for procurements and monitor life cycle sustenance and disposals.
For balanced and sharp inclusive self reliant capability development of defence forces, the three verticals, namely Governance, Policies and Stakeholders have to concurrently reform. At this time, the first vertical is sending positive signals. It should soon appoint a CDS/permanent COSC. The policies need an urgent review. The thought process exists. The Government should appoint an oversee agency for tracking implementation. The biggest challenge is the stakeholders. The turfs, largely a British legacy, tailor made to fight the last war need to be demolished.